Tag Archives: Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

Bruins-Rangers Key Matchup

Matt Bartkowski played in Games 5 and 7 in the first round of the playoffs against Toronto.

Matt Bartkowski played in Games 5 and 7 in the first round of the playoffs against Toronto.

As we all know, the Bruins skated past the Maple Leafs by the hair on their chins with an unbelievable comeback win on Monday night. What may not have been quite as obvious or even quite as important at the time was how they were able to get it done. Obviously, they needed to be able to score two goals in less than two minutes, but there was a reason they were within striking distance – if you want to call it that.

Through six games, the B’ had been 3-0 with both Andrew Ference and Wade Redden in the lineup and were 0-3 without both of them in there. In Game 7, however, neither veteran was on the ice and it came down to two rookies – Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton – playing well enough to get the win. Bartkowski even chipped in with his first career NHL goal in the first period and with Dennis Seidenberg leaving the game very early on, they each played big minutes and logged a lot of ice time.

By no stretch of the imagination were either of these players amazing, but they did enough to help the team win. They combined for just three hits and one blocked shot as well as five shots on goal, but they minimized their mistakes. For Hamilton, especially, he was much better than he was in Game 2 and even late in the regular season, though he was on the ice for the second Toronto goal in Game 7. In Bartkowski’s case, he took advantage of his ice time from Game 5 nearly tripling to make an impact on the game both offensively and defensively.

With returns from Seidenberg, Ference and Redden not looking too likely before the Eastern Conference Semifinals begin Thursday, these two will obviously be counted on for a lot of mistake-free minutes again. Not that it matters, but on the final two Toronto goals in Game 7, mistakes were made by Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid and Zdeno Chara – none of whom are rookies. Boychuk couldn’t seal of Phil Kessel for the rebound on the third goal and after Chara pinched up to allow a Leafs two-on-one, McQuaid was unable to get to Nazem Kadri quick enough to prevent him from putting home the rebound.

So, looking forward to the next series, a lot of the Bruins’ success will weigh on how well Hamilton and Bartkowski will be able to play. As I have said, they did all right in Game 7 when the team had just five defensemen left on the bench. Now, they have had two days to practice with Torey Krug, who is likely to go in Game 1 tonight, as well. This means new partners for almost everyone except Hamilton, who is fairly used to playing with Chara.

The key against the Rangers will be how well the makeshift defense of the Bruins stacks up against some of the tougher forwards in the league from New York. It’s not just Rick Nash, who was not even close to their most productive forward in the first round, but New York has more than a few forwards who can make plays and score goals. Sure, Chara may be on the ice for most of Nash’s shifts, and as we saw in Game 1 of the Kings-Sharks series, that can be effective, but there are other ways this team can beat you. The young defenders will have to step up since Chara cannot play 60 minutes a night.

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This Week In Boston Bruins History: April 7-13

Believe it or not, they were still playing hockey this time of year in the ’30s and in one particular year, the Bruins were enjoying a run to a championship. Also featured in this week’s turning back of time are the final games for a number of coaches, including Claude Julien‘s predecessor, a record-setting loss, a double-digit playoff win streak, one now-enemy’s glorious final game and, of course, a multitude of playoff defeats at the hands of the Canadiens. This is This Week In Boston Bruins History: April 7-13.

April 7:

On April 7, 1984, the Bruins lost, 5-0, to the Canadiens in Game 3 of their first-round series to be swept, three-games-to-none.

On April 7, 1995, they acquired veteran goaltender, Craig Billington, from the Senators in exchange for a ’95 eighth-round pick that turned out to be Ray Schultz.

On April 7, 2001, Mike Keenan coached his final game in a 4-2 loss against the Islanders.

On April 7, 2007, Dave Lewis coached his final game for the Bruins – a 6-3 loss to Ottawa. The team lost six straight games to end the season as well as Lewis’ tenure with the team and finished the year with a 35-41-6 record.

On April 7, 2012, the Bruins won their regular-season finale, 4-3, in a shootout over the Sabres. Patrice Bergeron scored the only goal of the shootout and Tyler Seguin had two in regulation.

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Bruins Shut Out Flyers Behind Big First Period

The third line was shaken up over the  last couple days and responded with a plus-3 rating in the win over the Flyers Saturday.

The third line was shaken up over the last couple days and responded with a plus-3 rating in the win over the Flyers Saturday.

For the second time in the last three games, the Bruins took an early three-goal lead, but this time they would hold on to beat the Flyers, 3-0, in front of another sellout crowd at TD Garden. Tyler Seguin‘s power-play goal 11:53 into the game would be all that Tuukka Rask would need as he made 23 saves to lead the B’s in his first start against Philadelphia since blowing a 3-0 game and series lead to them in Game 7 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

The B’s improved to 16-3-3 on the year with 35 points and overtook Montreal for first place in the Eastern Conference for the moment with the solid win. The Canadiens would regain the lead with  4-3 win over the lightning, where they came back from 3-1 down.

“It was a good team win. Every line chipped in,” said Jordan Caron, who was making his season debut with Boston after spending the first part of the season in Providence and recovering from injuries. He hadn’t played with the big club since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Capitals on April 25 of last season.

After a slow start to the first period that saw them put just one shot on goal in the first 11 minutes, the Bruins offense exploded for three goals in a 2:18 span. Seguin got the scoring started on a very good looking power play after Nathan Horton drew a holding call in front of the net. They had very good puck movement from the first power-play unit to start the man-advantage and after Ilya Bryzgalov made one save, David Krejci won the offensive-zone faceoff and the B’s went to work.

They would ger the puck back after Philadelphia won the draw and Milan Lucic eventually controlled it at the goal line in the right wing corner. He made a beautiful backhand pass across the ice, through multiple Philadelphia defenders and the crease to the tape of Seguin, who one-timed it into the open net at 11:53 of the first. It was Seguin’s eight of the season and fifth in his last five games from Lucic and Krejci.

Then, just 1:35 later, the Bruins struck again and this time it was the revamped third line of Caron, Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly. Building off the momentum from the first goal, the forwards supplied great pressure on the Flyers in their end and were rewarded for their patience.

“We played a little bit last year together and it went pretty well,” said Caron between periods on his comfort level playing with Kelly and Peverley. “All the lines were rolling,” he added.

Peverley led the easy entry into the zone and fired a wrist shot just wide, but Zdeno Chara was able to keep the scorching puck in the zone at the blue line. Caron then made himself available to receive the pass from Peverley and after holding it for a while looking to make a play, he made it feeding a wide-open Kelly in the slot from behind the net. Kelly took his time and wristed the puck low past Bryzgalov on the glove side to make it 2-0 Bruins with the 99th goal of his NHL career. Peverley’s assist was the 200th point of his NHL career.

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Celtics’ Ball Movement Keyed Game 4 Victory

The Boston Celtics' offensive efficiency starts with the play of point guard Rajon Rondo.

There was a clear difference between Games 3 and 4 of the Boston Celtics’ Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Atlanta Hawks. Game 4 showcased the Celtics  moving the ball with efficiency and precision to take a 3-1 cushion.

Sure, the Celtics were able to make shots from everywhere on the court, including Rajon Rondo knocking down two shots from beyond the arc. Those shots were there because of the ability to find the open man and keep the Hawks’ defense chasing the ball.

The Celtics are not a team that relies on one-on-one with a star player dribbling the ball and crossing over the opposing defenders like the Miami Heat does with LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. Instead, the Celtics would prefer to outwork the defense by spreading the ball around and having multiple scorers while applying pressure on the defensive end.

In the Game 3 90-84 overtime victory, the Celtics were late getting into their offense and they forced themselves to take shots just before the shot clock expired. The Celtics shot 40.5% for the game. There was one point when Tracy McGrady was lying on the other end of the court after suffering a knee injury, Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley were passing to each other on the perimeter and there was no off-ball movement from the other players on the court. Fortunately for the Celtics, Pierce was called for a foul while he threw up a tough outside shot.

Meanwhile in Game 4, the Celtics were spacing themselves and the ball was not stuck in one player’s hands. Rondo, who committed 5 turnovers in an erratic first half of Game 3, made just 1 turnover in Game 4. This was why Rondo was much more effective than his triple-double performance in the Game 3 win.  At about the 8:00 mark of the third quarter, the Celtics were 33-for-49 from the floor. Rondo recorded 13 assists by halftime and he finished with 16 dimes. The team had 24 helpers in this outing.

Pierce’s performances have been just as uneven as Rondo’s in this series, but he may have been even better in Game 4 than his “turn back the clock to 2002” accomplishments of last Tuesday’s 87-80 victory. He was 10-for-13 from the field in just 17 minutes despite a sprained knee he suffered in the morning shootaround, and he forced the Hawks to fold the tent with hopes of salvaging their 2011-’12 season in Game 5.

On defense, the Celtics set the tone early by getting eight turnovers in the opening frame. Overall, the Celtics’ defense forced 18 turnovers from their counterparts and scoring 18 points while they were at it.

The other encouraging sign was  Ray Allen’s return from bone spurs in his ankle. Allen played nearly 37 minutes in Game 3 and scored 13 points. Last night, Allen helped clinch the game by throwing a pass to an open Rondo for a trey to put the Celtics ahead by 25 and then on the next offensive sequence, he drilled a 3-pointer to hand the Celtics a 28-point lead. This ended any hope the Hawks had about making a comeback.  After the demolition of the Hawks, Allen said he may not need surgery in the offseason. The Celtics were able to blow out the Hawks with two of their best players, Josh Smith and Al Horford, coming back from injuries that kept them out of Game 3

This series has played out as the first team to 80 points will win. The Celtics should not expect to be as hot in Game 5  as they were in Game 4 because the Hawks are playing at home with an opportunity to play for another day. If the Celtics want to close out this series, they will move the ball and attack the Hawks on defense, especially with three key players (Pierce, Bradley, and Mickael Pietrus) battling ailments.

 

2012 NBA Playoffs: Boston Celtics – Atlanta Hawks Preview

The Boston Celtics will need a healthy Mickael Pietrus to defend the Atlanta Hawks' leading scorer Joe Johnson.

The Boston Celtics will begin their opening playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks in Atlanta on Sunday. Even though the Celtics finished with the 4th seed courtesy of winning the Atlantic Division, the Hawks (40-26) gained home court advantage with a better record than the Celtics (39-27) despite having a lower seed.

This is a team the Celtics knocked off in a seven game Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series in 2008, that led to the organization’s 17th title. At that time the Celtics were fully healthy and they had been the team to beat throughout the season. Now, the Celtics have an aging core mixed with some youth and athleticism. This team has battled injuries all season, but key players like Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, and Mickael Pietrus have missed the past several games with nagging pain.

Meanwhile, the Hawks will not be getting their center, Al Horford, back from a torn pectoral muscle he suffered early in the season. Zaza Pachulia will be out for the early portion of the series. The Hawks have gotten center Jason Collins back and they have won four of their last six games.

There is some bad blood between these two opponents in recent seasons starting with their surprisingly close postseason series in 2008. Kevin Garnett and Pachulia have engaged in after the whistle shoving for the past few seasons. When Kirk Hinrich was with the Chicago Bulls, he got into a skirmish with Rondo when the Celtics topped the Bulls in their 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series. In the teams’ first meeting this year on March 19th, Jeff Teague taunted Allen after a dunk early in the second half. The officials handed Teague a technical foul and the Celtics woke up to turn a double-digit deficit into a 79-76 victory. After the game, Garnett called Teague “a nobody.”

This should be an intriguing first round series, especially since all three games in the regular season were decided by five points or less.

Here are the key factors:

1. Avery Bradley/Pietrus/Allen or Sasha Pavlovic versus Joe Johnson.

Johnson is the leading scorer for the Hawks and he has come on late in the season with his hot shooting. The former first round pick of the Celtics is averaging 18.9 points per game and he is hitting 39% from beyond the arc. The Celtics don’t want to send Johnson to the charity stripe because he is nailing 84% of his free throws. Bradley has emerged into one of the best one-on-one defenders in the league with his ball pressure and ability to stay with his man off of picks. His size (6’2’’) is a disadvantage for the 6-7 Johnson who likes to shoot over the top of smaller defenders and come off screens for treys. The Celtics could use Pietrus more in his matchup on Johnson, especially in the final minutes. Pietrus’s length could provide problems for Johnson, but Pietrus has been battling a flare up in his surgically repaired knee over the past week after he had suffered a concussion on March 23rd in the 99-86 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. Allen may not be available to play with bone spurs in his ankle. Allen has missed 15 of the past 20 games with this ankle injury. If Allen isn’t available even though Doc Rivers believes Allen will return, expect  Pavolvic to fill in for Allen. Pavlovic is the same height as Johnson, but he isn’t as long or quick as Pietrus. Pavlovic will need to be physical against Johnson.  Meanwhile Bradley has improved his three point shooting and he is knocking down outside jumpers consistently while displaying the ability to make quick cuts to the basket. Pietrus can stretch the opposing defenses if he is on from behind the three point line, which he seemed to be on a hot streak before he received the concussion. I

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